First, just a quick story behind our cover story about two very different fates for Donald Ross courses. The Columbus Country Club story is a great behind-the-scenes look at one of the many Ross restorations and renovations going on out there during the Great Rebuilding Era we’re going through right now. But, the other story is very, very different.

Ross’s Acacia Country Club was a local favorite in Cleveland for nearly a century. It was one of a handful of top clubs on the east side of town. It was also in the middle of a fast-growing commercial area and developers were throwing huge offers at the membership to sell. The club was torn. Eventually, the property was acquired by a land conservancy group and handed over to the Cleveland Metroparks with two provisions: it had to remain greenspace and it couldn’t be a golf course anymore.

That was four years ago. Since then, the property has been slowly deconstructing itself from high-end club to wild pollinator plants, walking trails, sapling nurseries to replant trees in other area parks, and a home to coyotes and other wildlife. I’ve documented a lot of the gradual changes there on Facebook and the response is often, “Oh that’s terrible that we let a Donald Ross course die like that.” Frankly, there are hundreds of Ross courses and we just can’t continue to ignore economics and keep every one alive. The best thing is that it’s still greenspace and that beats the hell out of another shopping mall or condo complex. Plus, it’s the world’s only Ross-designed dog park. I love the place.

Second, with our annual Construction & Renovation issue comes the GCBAA auction challenge we offer every year. The GCBAA is an awesome organization. It’s not big but its members are incredibly loyal and very engaged in the market. There meetings are chock full of education, networking and (dare I say it?) fun.

Part of that fun is raising money – lots of money – every year for Sticks for Kids, the association’s terrific charity. We always auction off a package that includes a page of advertising in the issue and a little bit of fun here in my column. This year’s winning bidder? Our good friend Sam Ferro of Turf & Soil Diagnostics. He’s been a leader in testing services for superintendents for decades, but I wanted to learn more about him as a person.

What was the hardest lesson you learned? “Not sure about the hardest lesson, but the most important lesson has been that “people are people.” We’ve had the good fortune to work with turf professionals from around the world. I find that no matter background, experience or education, professionally we all want our jobs/projects to be successful, and personally we want to be happy and to be able to provide a quality life for those who are most important to us. Pretty simple, but also pretty powerful.”

Why is GCBAA important to you? “GCBAA has provided us with a venue to solidify our relationships with leading builders and suppliers to the golf and sports turf industries. It’s a great organization where people – who are often competitors – come together in support of the golf construction and maintenance industry.”

If you could wave a magic wand over our industry, what one thing would you change? “My magic wand would be somewhat selfish. I would make putting green cutting heights higher to allow coarser topdressing sands to be easier to work in to the turf.”

Thanks, Sam! And thanks for supporting GCBAA.

Finally, it’s with mixed emotions that I tell you Mike Zawacki, who served brilliantly as editor of GCI for the past decade, is leaving our team to go full-time with our Snow industry magazine group. Mike was the grownup on our team, always keeping magazine production and endless digital products going while Guy and I were out gallivanting around the country. The quality of GCI, its amazing production values and its consistent rankings at the top of editorial studies are all because of Mike.

And he did it all while producing Snow Magazine and helping to organize a trade show and other events in that market. He’s always been a leading voice in the snow and ice management business and now he’ll have the chance to solidify that role. He might even have a bit more time to focus on his real passion … playing that rock ‘n’ roll music with his band, Hoodoo BBQ.

Thank you, Mike for all the great stories you’ve told and, mostly, for being a turfhead at heart.

Pat Jones is editorial director of Golf Course Industry. He can be reached at pjones@gie.net or 216-393-0253.